Three plots make ‘Karolina’s Twins’ exciting reading

Karolina’s Twins by Ronald H. Balson; © 2016 St. Martin’s Press; ISBN 9781250-089045; 306 pages; $15.99.

By Donald H. Harrison

Donald H. Harrison

SAN DIEGO – Author Balson skillfully weaves three plots together.  There’s the story of a Holocaust survivor and the twin girls she hopes are still alive; a court drama prompted by that elderly woman’s son attempting to have her declared mentally incompetent; and the story of a detective trying desperately, with few leads, to find the twins born 70 years before.

For the main plot, Balson drew on the true-life account of Fay Scharf Waldman, whose family was destroyed by the Nazis, and who, along with a childhood friend, managed to survive life in the ghetto while working as a slave laborer in a Nazi-seized factory.  In the novel, the friends are named Lena and Karolina; Lena being the protagonist who vows that before she dies, she wants to keep a promise to Karolina to find those babies and tell them the circumstances of their infancy.

For a secondary plot, Balson draws upon his own considerable knowledge as an attorney.  We learn the ins and outs of attorney-client privilege, and about how a court might be tempted to break that privilege for what might potentially be a greater good.

Finally, in another sub-plot, we enjoy the story of a detective sleuthing through modern-day Poland, trying to find the twins.

As in the narrative of any Jew who survived the Holocaust, there are moments of high drama and what might either be described as “dumb luck” or “divine intercession,” depending on your religious belief.

I found myself so absorbed reading the novel in my office at home that I didn’t realize that my wife had turned off the lights in the rest of the house and had gone to sleep.  When I finished this page-turner, I was astonished how much time had gone by.

Even if you think you couldn’t bear to read another Holocaust story, this one will grab your attention and hold it right through the surprise ending.

Harrison is editor of San Diego Jewish World.  He may be contacted via [email protected]

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